Inside Out

Hey everyone! This week we take a look at Pixar’s latest feature film, Inside Out. Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, and Mindy Kaling, the film is rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action.

Inside Out takes a look at Riley, a teenage girl growing up, and the emotions- Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness- that control her. Life is good for Riley until her family suddenly uproots and moves to San Francisco. Riley has to leave everything behind, and her emotions have to adjust to a new life.

9 out of 10

As gut-wrenching as it is to say, Pixar has slipped these past couple years. With mediocre releases such as Monsters University and Cars 2, they lost the innovation and quality that a Pixar feature film has always had. However, Inside Out has brought them back to the high level that we’re used to seeing. Not only was the animation excellent, per usual, but the film featured exceptionally strong characters and a moving, innovative story.

inside out 1

Though it goes without saying that Pixar does a good job with the animation of their films, I was especially impressed here. The one thing that made this film so appealing was the incredibly intricate use of color, and the animation allowed that to pop. Not to mention, there was a scene in which the characters literally shifted to being two-dimensional, which was done really done. All the little details created by the animators were what allowed this movie to be so visually appealing. Props to them.

 If you want to get technical, then calling this film a road-trip would be appropriate. The two main characters, Joy and Sadness, played by Poehler and Smith respectively, find themselves miles away from their headquarters with a desperate need to get back. I found myself fighting for them to get back, probably with a greater sense of panic that they were. Every objective that they faced, I was as frustrated with. My point is, I was invested and along for the ride. Tears were indeed shed. The movie’s plot was unique like no other– I was astounded by the creativity of the entire thing. The premise was incredibly inventive; I mean, the emotions inside of our body actually being alive? Who comes up with that stuff?

inside out 2

They did a very nice job on all the characters too. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith (Phyllis from The Office!) were on point and had really great chemistry. The supporting cast of Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Mindy Kaling were hilarious and provided great support. Even more so, the way that each of the emotions were personified was incredibly well done. The characters were probably the most well executed aspect of this film, end to end.

The most powerful thing about the film was its deeper meaning. The whole connotation surrounding love and family was perfectly executed, especially as this film was able to recognize its audience. Slightly more mature kids, but still younger children. And even more impressively, though this film was not intended for angsty 17 year olds, it still hit hard. It featured a universal message that appeals to all age groups, and did it with perfect execution.

Now Inside Out did have minor flaws- at times it felt like they were desperate to add another obstacle for Joy and Sadness to encounter, undoubtedly making it feel a bit stretched. I’d say 5-10 minutes could be cut out without any of the important substance being lost. That being said, this can be easily forgiven. While it could have been shorter, those 5-10 minutes were still entertaining and well worth my time.

inside out 5

When it gets down to it, Inside Out is one of my favorite films of the year so far. It is moving, charming, and an incredibly innovative film. Inside Out is definitely a film that will ultimately rank among Pixar’s bests, not to mention one that puts the studio back on track after 3 years of (relative) duds.
~Vig

9.0 out of 10

Inside Out has been widely heralded as a return to form for Pixar following the studio’s misfires with Cars, Cars 2, and Monsters University. The studio has pledged a number of sequels, including Finding Dory, Cars 3 (yikes), The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4, all set to be released in the coming years. But with Inside Out, Pixar proves that it still has the glorious creativity and originality that has defined it for more than a decade.

And yes, Inside Out is as inventive as a film can get. Many have chided it for following the perceived Pixar formula – what if _____ had feelings? – but Inside Out manages to find its own niche even within its classic mold. It takes an inventive look inside the mind of a young girl nearing her teenage years and introduces us to the feelings that, for better and for worse, control her emotions.

inside out 3

It has all the winning energy, animation, and gags necessary to keep the attention of its younger target audience. The emotions are all gorgeously animated, the vocal work is fantastic, and the scenery is bright and full of action and adventure. Sequences with Bing Bong, the protagonist’s childhood imaginary friend, are dazzling and fully entertaining. The story is easy enough to follow, with potentially confusing plot structures thoroughly explained at the beginning of the movie in a way that doesn’t feel forced. The movie’s relatively short runtime ensures that it doesn’t overstay its welcome and bore its potentially fidgety young audience members.

Beyond that, though, Inside Out has all the deeper meaning that has come to characterize the upper echelon of Pixar films. It has plenty of puns and subtle word play (Anger’s head lights on fire because he’s a hothead, Sadness is shaped like a teardrop) and references and situations that will hit home only for audiences who have been through the emotional development Riley is beginning to experience. Inside Out also makes a real inquiry into hour our brains function and how our actions can be dictated by our emotions. We take rides on the train of thought, see memories fade into blackness, and see the struggle for control our emotions wage within our minds.

inside out 6

The only place Inside Out loses some points is in its middle stages. The beginning of the movie, where we are introduced to the emotions and each has its hilarious moment in the spotlight, is absolutely amazing. The ending, where each finds its new, more complex role within Riley’s mind, is again absolutely amazing. In the middle though, it seems almost as if the director was looking for a way to extend the running time, and we were met with a number of seemingly meaningless plot details which, while entirely entertaining, were ultimately unnecessary for the conclusion of the story and had the sense of prolonging the natural course of the story.

inside out 4

These minor hitches cannot undermine the sheer brilliance of Inside Out. It is simultaneously uproariously funny and heartbreakingly sad, blissfully slapstick and pensively subtle. It is a win for audiences of all ages and all but a guarantee for Best Animated Feature of the Year. Maybe it can even score a Best Picture nomination.
~Will

 
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Big Hero 6

This week we’ll be taking a look at Big Hero 6, Marvel’s first animated superhero film. Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, it stars Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit and Jamie Chung. It is rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements.

Big Hero 6 follows young genius Hiro Hamada, who develops a close bond with a inflatable robot named Baymax. When an “accident” destroys his greatest invention and takes away his closest friend, Hiro turns to Baymax and his close, genius friends to help solve the mystery that lies behind the accident.

8.5 out of 10

Before I start, a side note: Will cannot write a post without making a snarky comment about me, so I don’t think you should take anything he says too seriously

However, I would be lying if I told you he was wrong about Big Hero 6. It is exciting, funny, and heartwarming and never relents. While it does get a little bit silly here or there, its execution is perfect.

big hero 6 hiro

 

The animation is among the best I’ve ever seen. Every character is so interesting, thanks a lot to their unique, subtle features. For example, each of their hairstyles are so different, a detail small but important in creating the chemistry that is crucial to enjoying the film. The actions and movements are so smooth, creating an exciting and intense environment that is filled with entertaining action sequences. Each of the characters’ superpowers is so unique, and the incredible animation only aids in making the movie so entertaining.

Even furthermore, beyond simple animation, these characters are remarkable in their own individual light. Each of them is different, both in powers and in personality. The difference between Baymax (a silly little blob shaped robot) and Hiro (a brash, intelligent, and scrawny human-being) is what makes the movie so heartwarming. The connection they form is gradual and we are watching every step of the way, which is what keeps us so invested in the movie. Big Hero 6 is entertaining and emotionally grasping because its characters are just that.

baymax

The plot is really well done The concept isn’t too innovative or stunningly brilliant– I predicted the supposedly surprise twist towards the beginning of the movie– but all the aforementioned details of the story, characters, etc behind it make it incredibly interesting. As a result, the storytelling is easy and smooth as silk. Everything is in the (relative) realm of believability. There are virtually no plot holes or random plot details that make absolutely no sense. The only time I was annoyed was when I was a bit confused as to why Hiro, an alleged super genius, couldn’t even come up with a theory about who the antagonist was, but this took away nothing from the movie.

I do agree with what Will said when he claimed that the first half of the movie is better than the second half. It trends towards being repetitive with the action sequences and dialogue. Mix that with the silliness of the movie in general, which was acceptable during the first half, and the movie got a little incredulous. It definitely could have been worse, which is why I’m not up in arms over it. It only accounts for why I didn’t enjoy the second half of the movie nearly as much as I enjoyed the first half, and why I chose to gave it an 8.5. However, this really says more about how good the first half of the movie was rather than how poor the second half was.

big hero 6

Overall, this movie was excellent and definitely worth a watch in theaters. The environment–one that featured 200 children laughing every second– was great (though I’m not sure if I was laughing at the kids or laughing at the movie). While I personally don’t feel it is as good as The Lego Movie simply because it isn’t as smart or relentlessly entertaining, Big Hero 6 is still a great movie nonetheless. It was definitely a movie I didn’t expect to see myself paying to see in theaters, but I’m glad I did end up seeing it anyway.
~Vig

9.0 out of 10

Yes, I know that this is the third straight nine that I’ve given. I don’t want you or anyone else in the hordes of Screenwars readers to think that I’m not critical enough or that I whitewash my reviews. I just watched Braveheart, a Best Picture Winner, on Netflix and would rate it a 5. Gladiator, another Best Picture winner, is, in my opinion, a 6.5. The string of nines is due to one and only one reason: the last three films I’ve watched have all been fantastic.


First I want to talk about Feast, the animated short that precedes Big Hero 6. In it, a dog rescued off the street comes home to live with a man and rejoices in the largely human and greasy food that his owner gives him. One day, though, the man gets a girlfriend and they start eating the finer foods, like roasted Brussels sprout, much to the dogs understandable dismay (take a hint, Mom). I don’t want to spoil the ending, but throughout Feast I was laughing and thoroughly enjoying the quick allegory of the dog’s experiences and choices. The only thing that might hold it back from winning the Best Animated Short Oscar is its similarities to last year’s winner, Mr. Hublot. Both involve compromise and both involve dogs. But, overall, bravo Disney.

feast

Feast was fantastic, but Big Hero 6 was the main event. The first thing that struck me was its animation. It was absolutely gorgeous, from the details in the characters to the sprawling cityscapes of San Fransokyo (yes, it’s a corny name). It was really the best animation I’ve ever seen, much like The Incredibles was way back in 2004. The character movement was smooth and the environmental details sharp. The animation was truly top-notch.

What really shined the Big Hero 6 were its characters. Baymax, Hiro’s big, squishy, marshmallow looking robot was simultaneously hilarious and endearing. I can’t count how many times I was bellowing with laughter at Baymax’s oblivious comments and heartfelt sentiments towards Hiro, a young boy distraught after a familial tragedy. Hiro, too, was awesome, full of humor and teenage exasperation. Scott Adsit and Ryan Potter really did fantastic work as Baymax and Hiro.

Through the first hour of the movie I was in love. I was thinking that, just maybe, this might be the best animated movie of all time. It was that good. Unfortunately, towards the middle and end the plot development and character decisions started to get a little bit muddled and ridiculous (even for an animated movie), and it felt like the movie was trying to shove its message down you throat. The only reason that this movie isn’t at a 10.0 is because of the heavy-handedness of the last third of the film.

Still, though, Big Hero 6 is definitely worth a trip to the movie theater. It is sure to entertain all audiences; it’s colorful, slapstick moments will entertain younger crowds and its deeper, occasionally inappropriate humor will keep the parents interested (while flying safely over the heads of any children present). At the theater when Vig and I were watching the movie, a mother and son sat right in front of us. Throughout the entire film, both were laughing uncontrollably, as was the rest of the theater, which is a true testament to just how effective Big Hero 6 was.

big hero 6 fat

Any other year, this movie would be the frontrunner for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. It is right up there in my opinion with the Incredibles, Shrek, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and The Lego Movie. The problem, though, is that The Lego Movie will also be contending for top dog at the Oscars this year. I would cast a ballot in favor of Big Hero 6, but I know Vig will probably lean towards the Lego Movie. Just keep in mind that his favorite movie is the flat, problematic, and laughable Forrest Gump.
~Will

Like Big Hero 6? Hate it? Let us know in the comment section below.

How To Train Your Dragon 2

Up next, a look at the sequel to the hit 2010 animated film How To Train Your Dragon.  Starring Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett and Gerard Butler, it is rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.

Five years after the events of the original, Hiccup (Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless journey across the skies, charting unmapped territory and exploring new world. However, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace after one of their adventures leads them to the insane Dragon Hunter, a.k.a Drago Buldvist. In order to preserve the future of both man and dragon, the dynamic duo realizes that they must stand up for themselves and their cause.

7 out of 10

I distinctly remember watching the first How to Train Your Dragon. It was really late at night, I was out of the country, and I was sitting on a very uncomfortable couch. Why am I telling you this? I don’t really know.

I guess my point is that the first film was extremely memorable. I remembered watching it. It was something I didn’t expect to like, but now it’s one of my favorite animated films. A combination of impressive animation, an enticing story, believable voice acting and strong characters is what allowed the first one to be so great. The sequel was unable to improve upon on these areas, and actually regressed slightly, but still resulted in an above-average, enjoyable film.

The animation for this is like most other Dreamworks films: very good. It’s not overly cartoonish and the action sequences are aesthetically appealing, no doubt about it. When the action sequences are at maximum excitement, they look fantastic because of how all the animation is so perfect. Additionally, the exaggeration in the characters (aka the girth of the vikings or the lack of it on Hiccup) provides the comedic effect that it the movie is really going for. So in that sense, the animators of the film got the most important aspect of the film right and actually made it look pretty damn good. Yay!

I also think that the voice acting was pretty solid. If we’re being honest, I am one of Jay Baruchel’s biggest haters. I think he has no talent, but even he didn’t do that terribly! Blanchett and Butler weren’t too bad either. But undoubtedly, America Ferrera, as Astrid, was the most impressive voice actor. Her character was far and away my favorite and that’s largely because of Ferrera’s performance.

Jay Baruchel as Hiccup

Jay Baruchel as Hiccup

However, there is a lot to be dissatisfied with. The general premise is good enough, but takes a bit long to get to that point. There are way too many parts to the story, which is so excessive considering this is a child’s movie and it doesn’t need to be so complicated. There was a part with him meeting his mother, him finding new land, him fighting this dragon hunter, him having to become chief, him and his girlfriend, him and his dragon, him and his dad, him and… I don’t know at this point. There was just so much, and it just got so convoluted. The only thing we really care about is the story about him and the dragon hunter, so everything else is just excessive. Not to say that it shouldn’t be in there, it just shouldn’t be nearly as relevant. The movie got to be way too mushy, and at times, very boring. Like I said, we were just waiting for something to happen and it took a while for it to actually happen.

My friend dubbed this as “How to Fail a Sequel”. I think that is a bit too harsh, as this is definitely an enjoyable, acceptable film, but it definitely fails to live up to the original.
~Vig

8 out of 10

Dreamworks had a bad rap.

S’right. You heard me. “Had”. There was a time when Dreamworks endlessly churned out heartless sequels and where its rival, Pixar, constantly upstaged it. Dreamworks got a couple of good hits in (Shrek, Shrek 2, and maybe Madagascar come to mind) but always stayed in Pixar’s shadow. After a decade long battle, in 2010, Pixar slammed the nail into the coffin with Toy Story 3. It was over. Dreamworks collapsed under its sequels and half-baked ideas.

Then 2011 came along.
For those of you who have forgotten (I don’t blame you, man), Pixar released Cars 2. It was bad. Really bad. It was the antithesis of all the heart and hard work Pixar had injected into its movies before. They barreled down all of the mountains they had previously scaled and, since then, they have not made it back.

So what was Dreamworks doing? Milking its cash cows? A little, but Dreamworks did something Pixar never got the chance to do: it learned. Victory and praise cushioned and defeated Pixar. Dreamworks has come out with some solid hits since mid-2010. How to Train Your Dragon being one of them.

So, of course, everyone groaned when plans for a sequel were announced. Dreamworks was ready to drive another winner into the ground. That’s what I thought also. So what did I think of the sequel?

Goddang, was this film awesome. It delivered in a way barely any animated sequels have before. I would say it matched the original and then some, in fact. Let’s start with the animation:

3D is generally gimicky and an excuse for the theatre to get three more dollars but there are some movies that genuinely utilize it for good. How to Train Your Dragon is one of them. The animators know they have a vast universe to explore and they just dive into it with some great flying scenes and action sequences.
The film also uses motion capture without any creepy side effects. Mo-cap can get a bad rap but its actually great for showing expressions as the recent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Another great summer movie) has also demonstrated.

There’s also the story. Its pretty dark and true to the norm that sequels should get more serious than the original. I’ve got to admit, there were some pretty surprising moments in this movie that showed a lot of maturity and trust in its audience. I won’t go much further than that for the sake of making it surprising but there are plenty of plot-points to look forward to.

htyd2

So Dreamworks has the upper hand this round. It may lose it if Pixar’s planned sequels pan out spectacularly but I find that unlikely. But who knows? A decade from now, the animation wars could still be raging. Hopefully, with dragons.
~Zach

IMDB: 8.0
Metacritic: 72
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

The Lego Movie

Getting right back into it after the 86th Academy Awards, this week we’ll be looking at the surprisingly popular Lego Movie (sorry, we know it’s kinda late!). Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, it stars Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett (and many, many others). It is rating PG for mild action and rude humor.

The LEGO Movie is a 3-D animated film that follows the life of an everyday Lego mini-figure (for lack of a better word), Emmet, (Pratt) who is identified as “the most extraordinary person”, “special”, and a “master-builder” after an encounter with a mysterious girl, Wyldstyle (Banks). He is told that he is the only person who can save the Lego universe. With the help of Batman (Arnett), Vitruvious (Morgan Freeman) and other “master-builders”, Emmet goes on a journey to save the universe, but struggles with finding himself in the process.

8.5 out of 10

What a stupid movie.

Now let me explain. Yes this movie was silly. I mean, it’s Legos for Pete’s sake. If that’s not silly then I don’t know what is. But sometimes stupid and silly is good. And in The LEGO Movie’s case, a great thing. In a way, it’s The Expendables for kids. Stupid, mindless action (I guess) and fun. It’s just a fun movie to watch from beginning to end: a fast paced, endorphin releasing adventure. Hell, it’s got Batman, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings; everything.

There’s really not much to analyze, but I’ll do my best. The cast is star studded, featuring all sorts of big names including Arnett, Banks, Pratt, Freeman, Will Ferrell, Charlie Day, Will Forte, Dave Franco, Jonah Hill, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, Cobie Smulders, Channing Tatum, and even Shaq. The voice acting is pretty good, and everyone seemed to actually put in effort. Hey, Will Arnett could probably do a better job as Batman than Ben Affleck! (I kid, I kid).

lego movie characters

The animation is very impressive. The work to make the fire, smoke, and water look like it’s actually made out of Legos was very cool. Every detail was so specific and careful, helping the universe look so good. The whole universe, both in terms of its myth and its physical attributes, is created to perfection. It’s not hard to imagine playing this story with your own Legos as a child.

Though I did say this movie is stupid, I will be the first one to admit how smart the script is. There are so many ambiguous references that are hilarious if you understand them. I remember being the only person in the movie theater that laughed when Batman says “he’s the boyfriend you deserve” (a reference to the end of The Dark Knight). They’re not afraid to make obscure references and sometimes tease cultural icons, making fun of Gandalf and Dumbledore at points in the film. The writing of this film is impressive and rich with pop culture references.

As depth-less as this movie may appear, its message is honestly pretty deep, especially for the young children that this movie is targeted towards. Not trying to force myself into analyzing themes of a film (especially a movie like this) but the fact that The LEGO Movie actually has a relevant, important message is pretty cool. Everyone is unique, even if all signs point otherwise. Such an uplifting movie. The ending gives you all kind of feels and if you don’t get emotional then you’re not human. It’s kind of like the polar opposite of the Broadway musical Avenue Q, if you’ve ever seen or heard of that.

I can’t finish without mentioning the song ‘Everything is Awesome’, which is, well, awesome. It’s catchy and fits the tone of the movie so well. You’ll be singing it for days. Overall, the entire movie is so much fun and features so many intelligent jokes that contribute to its comedy. There is no doubt that this a silly movie, but seriously, who cares? It’s awesome.

8 out of 10

Everything (About this movie) is awesome!

Seriously, logistically, this must have had Village Roadshow, Vertigo and all of the other producers sweating bullets. Yes, when kids see brightly colored Lego-versions of their favorite characters, they’re gonna flock to the movies (And shell out the extra $3.00 for 3-D to boot) but what about parents? And, if we’re shooting for the moon here, teenagers?

Well, that got me thinking of all of the times I dragged my parents to hour and a half long kid films as a child. Now, those were great times, they probably wouldn’t have seen Shrek 2, Toy Story or Wall-E without them but, then again, they also wouldn’t have seen Shark Tale, The Wild, or Home on the Range without them (There’s a bonus if you actually remember those).

What I’m getting at here is that animation can get pretty dicey. It’s a category rife with beautiful opportunities and untapped potential but it’s also rife with money-makers: half-baked, loud, watch-checkers that’ll keep your kid entertained for $11. And sitting at the tippity top of this category is an animated movie that’s based off of a specific toy or brand.

Lego Movie really didn’t go with that route whatsoever. It was not an 100 minute commercial, though probably did work just as well as one. No, Lego Movie actually had me laughing. It also had me physically shocked that I was enjoying it so well. I read that it was laugh-a-minute but that was totally wrong: I laughed about every thirty seconds.

Now, given that just last week we looked at some of the first-tier Oscar picks, this praise may sound ridiculous but I thoroughly enjoyed this. This movie blindsided me in plenty of ways. First of all, it may operate in a world of blocks and bricks but its a beautiful film. Attentively animated and really kinetic but not busy. Second, it gets all of these different characters and licenses together in an organic way that doesn’t feel forced.

And, most importantly, it has a lot of heart. Really, I was surprised that this movie had a thoughtful message. Did it completely go against everything Lego says? Yes, Lego does not want you to practice what it preaches apparently. But it executes it in a pretty darn mature manner without getting taking itself too seriously.

Emmet, voiced by Pratt

Emmet, voiced by Pratt

Aside from the lack of Mega-Blocks jokes (I thought they’d be a good sport if that happened), I really can not say much more about this movie except that I loved it. Even if you are a self-proclaimed adult, break down that steel age-barrier and see it, you certainly will not regret it. You just might enjoy it more than most kids will.

IMDB: 7.9
Metacritic: 83
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%