Damn it Pixar: An Inside Out Review

Damn it Pixar: An Inside Out Review
Posted by on Jun 26, 2015

At this point in time Inside Out has received critical praise since before its premiere and has already smashed the record for an original opening weekend. This is for a good reason. Inside Out is everything we love about Pixar in one film. Creative ideas, new perspectives, memorable characters, and most importantly the emotional impact of a world shattering meteor.

As I watched Inside Out I was continually emotionally punched in the gut. Hence the “damn it Pixar” in the title. After all, I can only cry so many times in a film. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s first start with the cast assembled for this film. While there are numerous notable actors lending their voices, I’m going to focus on the five emotions. With comedy veterans Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, and Mindy Kaling, you can’t really go wrong. Surprisingly, the film doesn’t seem to coast on the talent of its stars and is instead elevated to higher plain.

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Amy Poehler channels more than a little bit of Leslie Knope (Parks and Rec) for Joy. Phyllis Smith absolutely nails Sadness and also seems to channel some of her character from The Office. Bill Hader plays Fear who could easily be replaced by Flint from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Mindy Kaling as Disgust is divinely inspired casting and a summation of all the cool people we’ll never be. Finally, Lewis Black as Anger is just about as perfect casting as you can get. With a solid voice ensemble, this film is definitely putting the right foot forward.

Beyond the voice cast, we need to talk about the story. Following the emotions of Riley, a girl moving with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. Struggling with leaving her friends and old life behind, she is forced to adjust to a brand new life. Of course this is an emotional time and sends Riley’s five emotions into turmoil. This is a story that everyone can relate to. Whether it was a move or some other life changing event that occurred when you were a child, everyone can think of something.

Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black) guide 11-year-old Riley from Headquarters, the control center inside her mind. Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”), Disney•Pixar's "Inside Out" opens in theaters nationwide June 19, 2015. ©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black) guide 11-year-old Riley from Headquarters, the control center inside her mind. Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”), Disney•Pixar’s “Inside Out” opens in theaters nationwide June 19, 2015. ©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Through this story, which takes about two or three days, we learn the importance of each emotion. Fear keeps us safe from dangerous situations. Disgust helps to ensure are social survival. Anger helps us to stand up for ourselves. Joy steers us towards what makes us ultimately happy. Sadness helps us understand pain and how to ultimately process it. These are slight simplifications but I only want to delve deeper into the two central emotions of this film, Joy and Sadness.

From the get go, Joy acts as the leader of the group. After all, if we asked what was the most important emotion, how many people would say happiness or joy? What Inside Out does so brilliantly well is accurately depict the importance of all emotions to our development, including sadness. They accomplish this most effectively by having two worlds. The outside normal world and the one where Riley’s emotions are. This create a unique cause and effect relationship that helps to showcase why Riley acts the way she does.

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It is done so well that you will not be able to stop yourself from empathizing with Riley. From my own personal experience, I could see myself when I was kid acting out in the same ways. The pain and confusion felt by Riley was very real to me. This emotional conflict drives the narrative and leads to some of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming moments in Pixar’s history.

All of this to say, I do not think that Inside Out is Pixar’s best film. It is definitely in my top 5 but not the best. Not for any one big reason but more just little things that subtracted a few points here and there. Really though, it’s apples and orange. Inside Out has earned a spot in Pixar’s greatest hits and has helped bring Pixar out of a creative slump. Not too bad after a two year absence from the box office.

Ex Machina: The Only AI You’ll Need

Ex Machina: The Only AI You’ll Need
Posted by on May 28, 2015

This review is a little behind the times but that’s life for ya. I had the extreme pleasure of going to see Ex Machina when it released just about a month ago. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

Let’s start with the actors. With three main leads in Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander everyone was on point. Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb) continues to show that he is a rising star. We’ll see him later this year in The Force Awakens but in just about every role that he’s come into, he has fully enveloped it. This time is no different. Playing opposite him is Oscar Isaac (Nathan) who has been making waves himself. To put it bluntly, the moment he came on screen you immediately disliked him. Everything about his performance just resonated a smug jerkiness. It’s hard to explain but in the real world, he’s the guy that walks into a room and his smugness just instantly puts him on your shit list. You kinda just want to punch him in the face.

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Now between these two phenomenal performances was Alicia Vikander. A fairly new name to me but about the same level as Domhnall Gleeson in terms of celebrity awareness opinion. Out of the three performances, she blew the other two out of the water. With a serene ability to somehow be menacingly comforting, you’re left guessing just what her true intentions are until the end. Her performance was ethereal which worked sublimely for her AI character.

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Beyond the performances, there was something interesting going on with the directing choices. The directorial style reminded me of a documentary. It had title cards to differentiate the different sessions that Caleb participated in. Scenes of b-roll footage often were interspersed between the more traditional scripted sequences. While this film would lend itself to a documentary style, having the two styles often felt jarring. Sometimes it worked while other times I was just confused as to the director’s vision.

This being said, I have to congratulate the director on a truly chilling AI film. As I’ve already stated previously, you’re left guessing as to the true intentions of each character. Not really sure who’s good and who’s bad. Each story beat was masterfully told to keep the audience guessing and always wondering how it will turn out.

In terms of the ending, which I won’t spoil, it is not a happy ending. In fact, there is a moment where the director gives you a moment of hope just to bring you crashing down minutes later into the melancholic ending. After all, the ending is happier depending on whose perspective you choose from. Before I spoil anything, I’m just trying to say this isn’t the typical Hollywood happy ending.

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I would remiss if I didn’t take sometime to focus on the visual effects. Alicia Vikander’s robot has see-through arms, legs, and a mid-section which are largely visible for a majority of the film. I’m not a VFX expert but I feel like making see-through parts believable is somewhat difficult. The best part is that they still look realistic when seen against the flesh and blood humans. Again, something really hard to do.

All in all, this is a great film hands down, especially for sci-fi fans. It reminds me a lot of I, Robot, the book not the film adaptation. In a time where sci-fi is often synonymous with laser guns and explosions, it was refreshing to see a film that focuses on the intrigue and broader concepts found in classic sci-fi. Think Isaac Asimov meets Blade Runner. If you haven’t yet, go see Ex-Machina you won’t be disappointed.

The Kingsman Review

The Kingsman Review
Posted by on Feb 19, 2015

This last weekend, I had the supreme pleasure of seeing The Kingsman: Secret Service. I won’t try to hide it. This is a good movie. It’s fun, entertaining, and doesn’t pull its punches. Before I get to carried away, there are three main reason The Kingsman is a hit.

First, the action choreography is sublime. I mean this very literally. The church sequence itself was jaw dropping. Again, literally I had to consciously close my mandibles because of my sheer awe. When I watched this scene, it reminded me of John Wick. The difference is that the directing style of Kingsman puts you into the action. The choreography in John Wick was usually presented pretty plainly. A medium shot of the action that allowed for us to see Keanu Reeves systematically take down his enemies very plainly. It worked for the film. The atmosphere of the film was very subdued, dark, and the opposite of flashy. That’s why the action worked the way it did.

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The Kingsman on the other hand, are in a much more vibrant and fantastical world. While similarly slick, the fights were largely just shot differently. One of the first fight scenes involves the hand off of a glass of whiskey (scotch?, can’t exactly remember) without spilling a drop. The difference from John Wick is the camera choices. It follows the action and rotates around the fight. It put’s you into the action instead of being an observer. When you see it, which I assume you will, you’ll see what I mean.

The church scene is the best representation of the films camera style. I really can’t emphasize enough just how mind blowing this scene was. Not only in its action but in it length. To put it simply, the scene was put to the song Free Bird. So yeah, it’s long. What’s amazing is that it doesn’t drag. It just keeps going and with every second it just gets better. This scene is worth the price of the ticket by itself.

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While the action is probably the highlight of The Kingsman, the second pillar of this film is its humor. The humor has a strongbase in the British style and with a little crudeness mixed. After all, The Kingsman can best be described as a love letter to James Bond. Every line has nearly perfect comedic timing and they are delivered with just the right amount of sass and dry wit. Even if you’re not a fan of British humor, I’m sure you’ll still get more than a few laughs.

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The humor is also well served by it’s actors. Colin Firth, while a good actor is not too well known for his action comedy roles. I was pleasantly surprised however by his performance. He nailed absolutely everything, down to his epic fight scene in the church. It honestly made me wish he could play James Bond. He was suave, sophisticated, and brutal with a touch of wit. Just brilliant to be honest.  Samuel L. Jackson absolutely nails his part as well. This is mostly because he plays a rather timid character than what we are used to seeing from him. Nonetheless, he was a likable villain which is a great asset to any movie. Samuel Jackson’s villain plays perfectly opposite Colin Firth’s hero. Both on either side of a fine line.

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Lastly, as I said earlier this film above all else is a love letter to James Bond. The current trend for espionage films, and action films in general, is to go dark. Sometimes it works and again, I cite John Wick as an excellent example. However, this doesn’t always work. By paying homage to the classic silly gadgets and tropes abundant in James Bond, The Kingsman circumvents this problem. Along the way, we still have some very dark moments that leave the audience shocked.

All in all, The Kingsman is a great movie. The humor might be a little to crude at times but otherwise it’s a fun, entertaining ride.

Why You Should be Watching The Flash

Why You Should be Watching The Flash
Posted by on Feb 12, 2015

I need to have a little disclaimer before I get started. The Flash is hands down my favorite superhero ever. This means two things. One, no matter how good or bad the show is, I would watch it anyway. Second, it makes me hyper critical of the show. So even though I would watch the show no matter the quality, I am not afraid to point out what they do wrong. Fair warning, there are a few mild spoilers below.

With that out of the way lets get into. The Flash premiered this last fall after a pilot style intro in Arrow. This was possibly the perfect way to start the show. Simply because he wasn’t introduced to us a as a superhero. He was the nerdy CSI who had a sweet spot for Felicity. This way, by the time he puts on the suit we already liked the character. Unlike Oliver Queen in Arrow who was pretty much introduced to us as a vigilante. That became his whole identity. It created this one-dimensional character that took about a whole season to gain some depth. With Barry Allen, we already knew him. He was a character before he was a hero, which just became another dimension to the character.

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We’ll get back to the fastest man alive in a second. Because the other factor that helped this show hit the ground running is its supporting cast. The three additional members of Team Flash, Cisco, Caitlyn Snow, and Harrison Wells help to expand the perspectives we get. Something that again was done later in Arrow that helped the show increase in quality. Cisco resonates with the geeky/nerdy side of  Barry Allen and acts as the audiences surrogate. Every time he “creates” the names of the villains is just another little nod to the fans. Caitlyn on the other hand helps to show Barry’s age. Being a young professional and what that looks like in today’s world. Basically, these two characters help show the two major aspects of Barry in a none super hero role. Not too mention when all three of these characters actually get together, we get a pretty unique look at what actually being a superhero could be like. Not too mention Iris West and her father. They both are iconic from the comics and are Barry’s family. They serve as a reminder not only of the tragic death of his mother but that family goes beyond blood.

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Now Harrison Wells does something else for our Scarlet Speedster. He provides a look at what Barry could be. It is still unclear whether Wells falls on the side of the angels or not. However, it is pretty clear that Wells is in it for himself and using his powers for his benefit only. Barry on the other hand views his powers a gift for others. Sure he’ll use it to unpack or change a little faster than normal, but relatively these things are pretty harmless.

Hold on, we’re going to switch gears and do some good ol’fashioned speculation. We know that Wells is a Reverse Flash. Historically, there have been two. The first was Eobard Thawne, a man from the future who gained access to the Speed Force. The other is Hunter Zolomon who gained time manipulation powers that simulated super speed. Without getting too much into, there is enough evidence to support Wells as either evil speedster.

My bet is that he is Eobard Thawne. Whether the other RF is Zolomon or Wells pulling off some kind of time travel trickery is anybodies guess. Honestly it doesn’t matter because Wells has information about the future. Not only that but information that seems to point to pretty significant point in Flash’s history. There is a lot more to speculate on but that’s not the point of this piece.

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That brings us to our next point. Flash has a very colorful rogues gallery one that I would argue is stranger than most. Instead of trying to update these characters or make them more grim, they fully embrace them. Particularly Captain Cold and Heatwave. The show fully embraces the corniness of these characters while still making them believably sinister. This however is nothing compared to when they will introduce Grodd. Grodd is one of Flash’s arch-nemesis and one of his more….weird characters. Simply put, Grodd is also known as Gorilla Grodd. He is a hyper-intelligent, talking, psychic gorilla bent on world domination. The fact that the show runners went with him in the first season is incredible. I mean, once Grodd comes into the picture there isn’t a villain that you couldn’t pull off.

Before we get to our final point, lets get back to Barry Allen. Grant Gustin is possibly just about as perfect for the role as you can get. He easily brings this authenticity that you would expect from someone who loves the Flash. Now, I don’t know if he was a fan before hand but it seems that he was. The Flash, the character, at his heart just want’s to help people. Whether its a villain or not, he wants to use his powers to help others. He’s not on some mission to better the world or exact vengeance, he simply wants to use his powers to the benefit of others. Grant Gustin is able to represent this in spades. Again, as I said earlier I believe this is partly due to how we were introduced to Barry Allen. We saw him as a character first. Someone that we liked. Those feelings get transferred to his time as a The Flash. All I am trying to say is that Grant Gustin does an excellent job of representing at least what I believe to be truest version of the Flash.

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Which brings us to our final point. The Flash show-runners have flung themselves into the Flash history in order to bring us the show that we need. They could of tried to go dark and gritty like Arrow but they didn’t. The Flash, for me, has always been a versatile hero. A hero that one minute will tie robbers shoelaces together to stop them to sacrificing himself to save the multiverse (that’s a whole other can of worms).  He is equal parts fun and serious. His show encapsulates that to a tee. One moment he will be riding high and the next minute he will be brought crashing down. Those extremes can’t really be brought into other superhero shows. Mostly because they are too focused on being serious and dark. The Flash embraces the absurdity of the heroes world so that we can experience new moments of humanity.

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
Posted by on Dec 26, 2014

MAJOR SPOILERS

I took my last trip to Middle-Earth this last weekend. Seeing the conclusion The Hobbit trilogy was satisfying mostly just to see it end. In many ways I want this film to be spectacular. It is the last time we’ll see Middle-Earth for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, while it had it’s failings it still had its merits. First, lets get the worst out of the way.

As I have said in the past, I look at a movies as a standalone features. Meaning with movies based on books I essentially ignore the text. I do this because the movie will never measure up to the book. It might come close but even the best director can’t compete with your imagination. Plus, I don’t have to deal with how it diverged from the book which has no bearing on the quality of the film.

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Now that we have that out of the way. My first problem started with the editing. I honestly felt like I was watching a Michael Bay film at times. It seemed when ever drama needed to be added, slow-mo was apparently the way to convey that. It got to the point where it was annoying. At times it even sucked me out of Middle-Earth, especially where it wasn’t needed. Thankfully, they left most of the battle scenes unaffected reserving it for those one on one encounters.

As I’ll get to next, Peter Jackson inserted some additional subplots to help expand the narrative. Not a bad idea but the editing reflected a very disjointed story. We would get scenes wedged in that seemed out of place. This called into question their relevance to the main plot. After all, the subplots should feed into the main plot so we get this big pay off in the final act.

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My biggest problem with this trilogy is that it is a trilogy. Now I know I try not to reference the book, here it is slightly  important. The book lays out the basic story for Peter Jackson to follow. He did for the most part but the story itself wasn’t big enough for three films. Their were subplots from the greater mythos that were pulled in to try and fill it out but this mostly failed. Ultimately what I am leading up to is that the big final battle didn’t have much build up.

When you look at the timeline, the final battle really seemed rush. The five armies seemed to just appear when the time was needed. I chalk this up to the organization of the three films. The first film could stay largely the same. My only suggestion would be to shorten the goblin kingdom scene and end the film with our dwarven heroes at Beorn’s cottage. The second film would pick up immediately where the first left off. Again, it would stay largely the same but it would end a little differently. It would end with Smaug plummeting to earth after getting shot by Bard. I would also cut out a little of both mountain chase scenes. This would allow for the third film to dedicate more time to setting up this big final battle. To build up to it and give the audience the big pay off we want.

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My final gripe with Battle of the Five Armies is with certain scenes. I’ll only point out a few for the sake of time but we’ll see how well that goes. First comes with the pay off scene with the whole dwarve/elf love triangle going on. It comes to ahead when Tauriel, Kili, and Legolas engage in battle with the “I learned how to armor myself from a Saw movie” orc. In what should have been a confirmation of love between Kili and Tauriel, we see Kili killed and Tauriel basically thrown aside. Legolas then begins to well, lay his brand of Legolas justice on him.

To be clear, my problem here is not that Kili was killed. My problem is that we have a budding relationship, that felt forced anyways, ripped from completion without a satisfying conclusion. Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to see Tauriel kill our Saw inspired Orc? That’s at the very least the revengeful ending we deserve.  Speaking of relationships.

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The other big scene that troubled me was Thorin’s grapple with gold fever. I get whats going on but it pulled me away from the film rather than pull me into his psychosis. I mean by the end, Thorin get’s swallowed by the gold floor. Wouldn’t that technically mean he succumbed to his madness? Instead the next scene is of him finally putting his insanity aside. Trying to include this trippy peak inside of Thorin’s head seemed out of place. I’m not sure why we couldn’t have just seen Thorin step over the line and realize how fare he was gone.

With the bad out of the way, lets take a look at the good. Hands down the best part of this film were the performances. My favorite three were Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Luke Evans (Bard), and Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel). While not new to the acting scene, these three have been gaining some momentum thanks to their performances. With Martin returning to Sherlock, Evangeline joining the MCU, and Luke on to The Crow, they are definitely on the verge of exploding.

The Battle of the Five Armies can best be summarized on a macro level. Meaning, the closer you look the worse it gets. Even just one level of magnitude down the inconsistencies begin to show. If you’ve watched the other adventures in Middle-Earth, then go see it. At the very least you’ll have a film that just makes you angry.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Posted by on Nov 27, 2014

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been rescued from the games by being whisked away from the coliseum by the resistance. She is left with the horrible reality that her friend and fellow tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), was left to the whims of the Capitol. She struggles with her new role as a symbol of the rebellion while still trying to maintain a grasp on her life before the games.

Before I get into this review a few things must be mentioned. While I have read the books, as pointed by one of my coworkers, I am mainly relying on my impressions from the book as well as consultations to Wikipedia for summaries. With that being said, I am mostly judging this film as it is, a film. Since no adaptation of a book will ever be perfect I never expect any filmmaker to stick to the books exactly without taking a few artistic interpretations. I will also not be shying away from including items from the final Hunger Games movie since they are a book series and you have full power to go read them.

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To get right to it, I felt this film was unnecessary as a stand alone chapter and could have easily been condensed to a 30 minute section of a 2.5 hour Mockingjay film. It could have been great as a stand alone film, since up until this point each Hunger Games has been an action based thriller that seeks to keep the audience on the edge of their seat. It would have been refreshing to see a more nuanced film exploring the dynamics of the rebellion and its deceptively noble leader. Instead, we got about 2 hours of Katniss being told what to do and trying to decide whether she’s Team Gale or Team Peeta.

While I do understand that this love triangle is pretty central to the book and some form of romantic tension is needed in the young adult genre, it seemed forced in this time around. It seemed like these three, mostly Katniss and Gale since Peeta is largely absent during this film, have not grown at all. They are still in this weird gray area like they were at the beginning of the series regardless of everything they have been through. I’m not saying their relationship shouldn’t have been addressed, it just seems weird that we are covering the same romantic beats we have seen before.

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On the subject of character development, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) seemed the same as he did in the first film. I mean, he has been a part of the rebellion for what I think a fair estimate is a couple months. I was expecting to see Gale jump right into the rebellion since he has always been fairly rebellious in the past. Instead of seeing a rising star in the rebellion, we see a glorified bodyguard. It’s not until the end of the film that we see Gale starting to be more involved with the rebellion.

Looking past Gale, we similar development problems with President Coin (Julianne Moore). President Coin has much sinisterly motives that should have been played up by this time to lay the groundwork for her true agenda to be revealed. In the books most of this is done with internal monologue which is understandably hard to bring to film. Instead of seeing Coin as leader with dubious motives we see a rebellion leader who is strong in her beliefs and willing to make sacrifices to achieve her goal, even abandoning Katniss as the Mockingjay.

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To put this idea simply, instead of getting a film about a rebellion they take a rebellion and treat it like the Hunger Games. Instead of meeting and understanding the other players involved we get a group of people that are fairly one dimensional and there just to add variety. It almost seems the writers got stuck between focusing on Katniss like the last films and opening up the cast. Instead of getting either of those we get a weird gray area that is a lot like Katniss and Gale’s relationship. We’re not sure why these characters are here but they seem to be important to Katniss for some reason.

With Katniss, I have a few thoughts. Besides what I have already stated about her relationship status, she seemed less like the Katniss we have come to know. I read an interview about how the author, Suzanne Collins, was largely okay with any changes that were made as long as the focus was kept on Katniss dealing with PTSD from the games. When I read this things just kind of clicked. Of course she would be dealing with PTSD. At a young age she just went through a very traumatic few years culminating in losing the only person who went through it with her. Yet, we didn’t get that. Besides the opening scene and the scene of her sleeping troubles we don’t really see her struggling with this. Focusing more on this in the film would have added a layer that this film needed.

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Beyond this lack of mental instability, I felt as a supposed rebellion leader she isn’t very rebellious. Part of the story is about how she comes around to being a symbol for the rebellion. I get that she has to struggle with this at least a little bit but she largely just sits around waiting for someone to tell her what to do. Not too mention that as a supposed symbol she isn’t very inspiring. At no point during the film was I captured by her moving speeches. Her only real inspirational tool is that she survived the games and made the Capitol alter their rules for her. Which while powerful can only last so long, especially after the fact the rebellion is in full swing.

All of this being said, this is not a bad film. If you enjoyed the books than I’m pretty sure you will enjoy this movie. It was well directed and all the performances where great. What I have detailed mainly deals with the story and the actual character development. I fully expect that Part 2 will be better for me and am excited to see the last chapter in this thrilling story.

Big Hero 6: A Love Letter to Geeks

Big Hero 6: A Love Letter to Geeks
Posted by on Nov 13, 2014

Big Hero 6 premiered this weekend and is already pulling ahead in the box office, beating out Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. To say I was looking forward to this movie is a little bit of an understatement. Being a self described Disney and comic book geek, having a Marvel inspired Disney movie was a dream come true. So, going in with a set of established expectations I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

I was expecting a pretty straight forward origin story involving the typical loss and an eventual rebirth of our main characters. While our main protagnist, Hiro (Ryan Potter), did go through that traditional arc there was something else going on within the film. Leading up to the premiere, there were many articles pointing out that Big Hero 6 was set to be one of the most diverse Disney films to date. With a group of characters that seemed to break every mold, there was truly a character for everyone to relate to.

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There was Hiro, who was struggling with the loss of his parents and his brother. A genius who was unchallenged in everyday life and simply needed a place that fit him. Go Go (Jamie Chung), one of my favorites, is the Wolverine of the group who just does her thing, always looking to go faster and not getting hung up on others perceptions. Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) who at first you’d expect to be the big, rough and tumble member of the group is actually the type-a OCD team member, Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), the “girly-girl” of the group who would be just as excited going shopping as designing a new chemical concoction to aid in her crime fighting. Lastly, Fred (TJ Miller) is the simple enthusiast, he might not be able to build these incredible inventions but he will be the first volunteer to jump in and test it.

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Combining their varying geeky styles with the cultural diversity of each character, you see how anybody from any background could be anything. A clear lesson in diversity and about forming judgments based on a persons appearance. So, how does geek culture fit into this? Simple, every single member of Big Hero 6 is a geek! A geek is, at least by modern definitions, a person who is enthusiastic about a subject. Most often these interests lean more towards pop culture and academic pursuits. However, you can still be a football, shopping, marketing, or even a cooking geek.

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Big Hero 6 takes this approach of having multiple passions that interact with each of its main characters. Instead of making each one of Hiro’s friends a stereotypical one dimensional geek, we get a variety of characters with different interests that help shape them. Go Go is all about racing and she is hard at work creating mag lev suspension. Wasabi is a neat freak who borders on having OCD whose plasma swords cut with such precision that it would make even Monk proud. Honey Lemon has an eye for fashion and embodies that in her power purse that she uses to combine chemicals into crime fighting pods. Fred who while not scientifically inclined is a science enthusiast with a passion for superheroes is unashamed of letting his geek flag fly. Each character has their own quirks which clearly show through each one and makes some of the most unique characters in Hollywood today.

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We have established that we are dealing with a superhero team comprised of geeks. What this all means about geeks and geek culture is something any self-described geek already knows, everyone is a geek. I mentioned up above that being a geek is about being excited about something so much that you can’t help but tell others about your passion. For me, it’s film and comic books with a particular focus on those people or companies that tell great stories. I have had many brain dumping sessions involving coworkers and friends who asked just the right question to kick off an hour lesson on a particular subject. If you think about it, I’m you yourself probably have one or two subjects that people would have to physically stop you from talking too much about.

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Disney shows that this is okay. That being passionate about anything is okay. Fashion, science, robotics, chemistry, racing, kids, superheroes, everything is open to geek culture and that’s okay. Big Hero 6 does a lot of things well, showing diversity, showing how cool science has always been, superheroes are fun, friends are important, and while losing someone hurts we have to keep moving forward. What is most important is that it’s okay to be passionate about things and to surround yourself with people that fan the flames either through support or participation. This is what Big Hero 6 does the best. My favorite scene is when Hiro first meet his future teammates. You see the joy and passion they have for their individual projects that just brings a smile to your face.

Big Hero 6 may not be the best Disney film out there. I certainly still have my favorites and few criticisms. What is so special about Big Hero 6 is it presents its message in a very clear distinct way both actively and passively. Representing diversity passively by just having a wide range of characters that are different by being themselves. From backgrounds, to physical appearance, and even their little quirks, it’s easy to see how each character is there own person. The dialogue actively presents their messages of togetherness and support. From Fred’s science enthusiastic comments to the teams words of comfort and advice as Hiro struggles with the loss in his life.

Disney has made a huge step in terms of stepping into the modern era with their story telling and character diversity. We’ll just have to wait and see if they continue the trend with Moana and  Zootopia in 2016.

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The Judge

The Judge
Posted by on Nov 6, 2014

The Judge tells the story of a lawyer son disconnected from his judge father, who in all fairness made it pretty easy to happen. However, he is brought back to his hometown for his mothers funeral which thrusts him back into his family’s life. During his time their, his father becomes involved in a hit and run that could ruin his reputation. His son rises to the challenge and defends his father.

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First and foremost, what stuck out the most in this film is the chemistry between the son and the father played by Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Perfectly balanced, they do a great job of matching each others intensity and demonstrating true natural feeling of a strained father/son relationship. They both keep their usual mannerisms that you will see through out their acting careers. Downey delivers lines in short erratic spurts and Duvall delivers them in such powerful way that is frankly needed to stop Downey. However you choose to interpret it, they are the heart and soul of this movie and their are very few other pairs of actors that I believe could bring a similarly emotionally charged performance.

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If you do see this film, you should pay attention to the framing of the shots. There are multiple times during the film where I mentally “Oh, that’s a cool way to do that scene”, I literally took a moment to realize what the director was doing. For example, the chief drama in this film is drawn from the confrontations between Downey and Duvall. After one particular event and subsequent argument we see them both storm out of the car half way home, leaving in different directions. The other two brothers who have been caught in the middle of these two are perplexed as to who to follow. The shot itself is a medium shot that shows the car in the center with father and son walking off in two separate directions. It’s fairly obvious what the director had intended here. To visually represent the current relationships of each character, summarized in one shot.

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There are a few other moments that are similar that I won’t spoil for you but pay attention to the last scene in the film, it was a particularly well done little sequence. While our two leads definitely stand out, they are well supported with a cast fills out their roles nicely. They are out of the main view enough where you feel they don’t need too much development while still being relevant enough where you care about them.

Ultimately a well-balanced film and in my opinion worth a watch.

Fury

Fury
Posted by on Oct 23, 2014

Don Collier (Brad Pitt) is a WWII tank commander who is dedicated to bringing his crew home. Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia Lebeouf), Norman “Machine” Ellison (Logan Lehrman), Trini “Gordo” (Michael Peña), and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal) are Don’s crew and they are tasked with stopping a Nazi force from joining one of the most pivotal battles in the war.

Fury was written and directed by David Ayer (Training Day, End of Watch) has truly create a war masterpiece. To start off, when I walked out of this film I had the incredible urge to write a paper on the directorial and cinematography choices made in this film. Don’t worry I will restrict my review to a reasonable length. Nonetheless, what stood out the most about how much David Ayer was able to pack into his film. Filled with themes and metaphors that would take an academic level of analysis to unpack.

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Beyond that, it was a very well directed shot. Too often these days directors forget that they completely control the medium. David Ayer uses the camera and the fact that we as the audience have to view it from whatever perspective he chooses to add a layer of emotion that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved. Another director who does a great job of utilizing the camera is Edgar Wright, the writer and director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End. This video does an excellent job of going into detail about this concept. Everything that Wright does Ayer accomplishes in a dramatic setting.

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What was also surprising to me was the quality of the performances within the film. I expected a great performance from Brad Pitt and Logan Lehrman, who I might add is on my stars to watch list. However, the other actors while definitely not unknown I didn’t have the highest expectations for. I was completely blown away by their performances and how well they played off of each other. It honestly seemed as though in preparation for this film they lived inside a tank for a period of time.  Their characters were also quite memorable and separate from each other. From their nicknames which set them apart or their own little idiosyncrasies each character was truly separate from each other.

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Lastly, what set this film apart from other war dramas is the fact that it did not glorify either side. Sure, we knew the Nazis were the bad guys and their level of evil was apparent. However, this group of men who are supposed to be the heroes are not much better. They are truly men who have seen the horrors of war and have responded in kind. Men who have been fighting evil and have responded in kind. Ayer and the actors do not shy away from this concept and in fact embrace it. This is what stuck with me the most after I walked out of the theater. That these heroes of war adapted to fit the circumstances.

Fury is a must and the only reason I didn’t give it a perfect score is simply because it didn’t quite blow me away.

My Rating: 9.5/10

My Old Lady

My Old Lady
Posted by on Oct 2, 2014

Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) has hit rock bottom.  Alone and destitute, he travels to Paris using the last of his money in order to claim his inheritance from his father.  A townhouse in the center of Paris is all his estranged father left him from his large estate.  Looking to sell it to a hotel tycoon, he begins to appraise it the moment he arrives only to find that his inheritance is currently occupied by two stubborn french women.  Mathilda Girard (Maggie Smith) and her daughter, Chloé Girard (Kristin Scott Thomas), are in a special arrangement.  Instead of Mathias’ father purchasing the townhouse outright from Mathilda long ago, he instead formed a contract where he would pay her a monthly fee until she died.  That contract was signed nearly 70 years ago.  Mathias begins to reconsider his original plan and may just find out that he isn’t as alone in this world as he thought.

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My Old Lady is based on the play by the same name written by Israel Horovitz.  What is incredibly refreshing is that not only did Israel adapt the screenplay himself but he also directed the film.  So, while I may never see his play in its original format, I do believe I have seen a true representation of his original work.  I at the very least hope this is true since the film held many twists and turns along the way that I would be disheartened to find out where either rushed or incomplete compared to their stage counterparts.  I say this since these twists and turns are really what I remember most about the film.  You never really know what is exactly going to happen next as startling revelation after startling revelation continue to emerge.  These help to keep the story fresh as it would otherwise lack much more than the natural conflict that would arise when one is waiting for a “tenant” to die to claim multi-million dollar investment.

As is usually the case with me, the second part that really brought this film to life is the actors character portrayals.  Maggie Smith channels more than a little of her Professor McGonagall in her performance of a stern, stubborn, french woman.  With a performance that easily and gracefully slides between gracious host and irate business partner.  At certain times she seems to empathize with Mathias and his run of bad luck while other times she reveals no sympathy while firmly defending her position blaming Mathias for most of her troubles.  It really is truly entertaining to watch Maggie Smith work with a character that she seems to fit her so well.

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Kevin Kline and Kristin Thomas do pretty well themselves.  Most of the movie, they spend their time trading insults back and forth while slowly learning about the each other’s true intentions.  Not to mention that their relationship is what holds the majority of the twists and turns of this film.  To be honest (spoiler ahead), Israel makes it appear that they aren’t going to end up together.  For more than a moment, I truly thought that Israel would divert from the traditional model and end the film with a somber twist.  He doesn’t but nonetheless, he keeps you guessing throughout the film.

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Now, one thing that I have always found evident in film adaptations of plays is the amount monologues or scenes of extended dialogue.  This is where Kevin Kline truly shines with his acting prowess.  Giving more than a few powerful speeches and monologues that fully capture the characters forlorn attitude.  It is the kind of performance in fact that makes me want to go through his filmography to find more gems showcasing his skill.  His performance especially stands-out considering that the film has only three major characters.  Not unusual but the disparity between main and secondary characters is so great that one could easily only include the main three.  It would make for an interesting experiment but wouldn’t be that much of a risk to do.

Once again, I have not seen a stage production of the play but I feel that this is as close to the real thing as you will get.  With a great cast, plot, and direction this is definitely a must see.

My Rating 8/10

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