Review: Inside Out

'Inside Out' is maybe the best and most creative Pixar movie ever. And that's saying something. (Walt Disney Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

‘Inside Out’ is maybe the best and most creative Pixar movie ever. And that’s saying something. (Walt Disney Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

Before seeing Inside Out, I had only been to the movies three times this year: a sad decline from what I used to do. So being able to see a movie this extraordinary (to say the least) was such a treat. But I actually don’t imagine it would make much of a difference if this was my fourth film of the year or 24th. This particular movie was one of those ’10 out of 10’s’, those instant classics, those ones that will stay with you for years and years in the future. This wasn’t just a four-star movie, no, it was even better than that. And while it shouldn’t be surprising that Pixar created yet another absolute gem, it’s still an astonishing feat to think about.

Speaking of Pixar, which could very well be the best movie company on the planet, their unique, brilliant, fun, breathtaking movies over the years have always been so layered and incredibly written. Inside Out, however, is likely their boldest and most creative story yet. How Pete Docter and his team got this idea from head to paper/computer to movie screen is beyond me. While we’re able to live in the world of Riley and her parents, we’re also living in her mind and all of its inner-workings. It’s such a tremendous outcome, and it feels as if every single minute of it is flawless.

Pixar movies have always had the entertainment and fun imagery for children, which is still the primary audience one would imagine, but the themes have always had adult elements and jokes that parents can easily pick up on. In Inside Out, there is so much darkness for a kid’s movie, and so many moments of despair and heartbreak (not to mention the story being so wildly daring and successfully all-over-the-place), that I’m not sure it’s a good movie for kids to watch. Now, this isn’t to say it was all dark and that I didn’t laugh, because this is one of the most consistently funny films I can remember watching in some time.

The roughly hour and a half journey this movie takes you on (I never wanted it to end), is such bliss from the first scene through the end of the credits. I went into the theater excited and happy, and I left with a huge smile on my face, astonished at how one movie can be that remarkable. What’s so impressive, perhaps above all else, is its’ ability to elicit so many feelings in such a short amount of time. I laughed my head off, but I also shed a whole bunch of tears. There were moments of anxiety, and ones of simplistic joy.

The emotional roller-coaster that is Inside Out, left me happy that I came to the movies for a fourth time this year. But more than that, it made me happy people like Pete Docter and the team at Pixar are around making movies in this world. This one was an all-timer, and it’ll stay with me for long, long time.

INSIDE OUT: original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

Review: Jurassic World

Not even Chris Pratt, and his robot acting, could save this failed sequel. (Universal Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

Not even Chris Pratt, and his robot acting, could save this failed sequel. (Universal Pictures/aceshowbiz.com)

Have you ever seen one of those movies that you just wish hadn’t been made? And not just any kind of movie, but a sequel, or ‘reboot’ from a popular franchise. Ever seen one that was so mediocre and at times poor, and your only wish was that it had never gotten the green light? Of course you have, because that’s the majority of summer movies these days. And unfortunately, Jurassic World fits this category perfectly, and comes nowhere even remotely close to the magic of the original film, and made me sad that they have to keep churning out installment after installment just for money’s sake.

There’s a lot wrong with this movie, but for a brief moment, I’ll say what I did enjoy: some of the action sequences. And given the budget and scale of this thing, it’s good they at least got that right some of the time. At times during the movie, there were sequences that were quite gripping and fun to watch….but they were very few and far between. One other bright spot I suppose was Jake Johnson who provided what I thought was the only comedic relief. So, what went wrong? Whoa boy…

For starters, it felt like all the main actors – especially Pratt and Howard – just met each other and only have one chance to get each scene done. The acting was sort of painful to watch, like watching robots interact. There was nothing fluid or natural about any of it: the jokes fell flat, the love story was uninteresting, and it also felt like they were reading right from the script. And is it mean to say the two main child actors were bad, or annoying? If you remember the original, Jurassic Park, the two child actors were actually really good in their roles.

The plot turns that kept coming up were really kind of silly (even for a summer blockbuster, popcorn type of film). I mean…dinosaurs for military use? It took years to write out a script for this sequel and that’s what was used? Furthermore, I know that almost every big movie does this, but for a movie in the line of Jurassic Park to have Mercedes-Benz, Starbucks, and other product placement so blatant just felt wrong.

This isn’t an awful movie, as much as my review may paint it as one. It’s just so horribly disappointing and so…so far removed from the sheer brilliance of the original film. To compare the two might be unfair, but even by itself, Jurassic World has flaws aplenty. The acting, the premise, the ‘humor’, and even some of the action, it just wasn’t good. My only hope is that this is the last sequel in this catalog. But I know that can’t be true, because this one’s already making too much money for Hollywood not to green light yet another one.

JURASSIC WORLD: original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

The entire movie was one continuing, very bizarre, car chase. (Warner Bros. Pictures/aceshowbiz.com).

The entire movie was one extremely, very bizarre car chase. (Warner Bros. Pictures/aceshowbiz.com).

To tell the simple truth…I really had no interest in this movie until about a week ago. I’d never seen any of the originals from decades ago, and wasn’t entirely sure what this one was about. But then the reviews happened, and oh did they happen in a big way: 98% on Rotten Tomatoes! Summer blockbusters don’t get that kind of rating, heck, movies as a whole rarely get that high. Couple that with good word of mouth from some friends and the fact that Tom Hardy plays the lead, and I decided to give it a try.

The newest Max is set in a desert landscape/world where civilization has already fully collapsed. Survivors are more or less slaves to a ruler at ‘the Citadel’, where fresh water and greens are found. Charlize Theron plays the true lead in this film, a character named Imperator Furiosa, who deviates off of a plan to save five wives of the evil overlord. Trust me, it’s as weird as it sounds. From there, Max joins her race across the barren lands to get these young women to a safer place, and as you might expect, the overlord and his minions are chasing them the entire way.

This movie is insanely over-the-top in every single scene, or, almost every single scene, and it doesn’t try to shy away from that fact. It fully embraces its weirdness and steps on the gas to keep on moving. There were things that were so odd and so unexplained that I can’t even really describe them because I don’t think they had a huge impact on what was going on. But, a number of times, I did question…what the hell is going on? It’s a gigantic, steroid-infused car chase, but there were problems that I couldn’t get over.

For one, I just couldn’t get over the bizarre nature of the entire spectacle. Now, there are scenes and action sequences that are pretty fun to watch, that’s for sure. But from start to finish, it just struck me as being way too bizarre for no exact reason, and I never bought into it. I wanted to like it, I really did, but the story and the characters, the names and the guitar player shooting fire out of his guitar during a car chase, and….well you get the point. And secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I felt nothing towards any of the characters. One of the most important things in any movie is to feel some sort of emotion or attachment towards someone on the screen, and that never happened in Max. Theron was stone-faced and had a back-story that was brought up as what almost felt like a tiny addition at the last-minute of writing the script. And Max himself…almost nowhere to be found in terms of dialogue. There were moments I thought it was Hardy doing his Bane voice again with all the guttural noises, grunts, and very short speaking moments.

I was hoping Max would be a surprise hit of the summer for me, and that 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and positive word-of-mouth would all be true. However, it was just not my style I suppose, as I sort of expected. There were enjoyable moments, but, collectively the film itself wasn’t as entertaining as I wanted, and provided very little in terms of characters to like (or dislike). And yeah…it was too weird for me.

MAD MAX: FURY ROADoriginal_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

Review: Ex Machina

Expectations were certainly exceeded in this tense sci-fi thriller. (A24/aceshowbiz.com)

Expectations were certainly exceeded in this smart, tense sci-fi thriller. (A24/aceshowbiz.com)

Yesterday, my brother texted me and asked if I was going to see a movie called Ex Machina, because he thought it looked terrific. Not only was I unaware what this movie was about…I didn’t even know it existed or was out in the first place. So I went home, watched two trailers, and next thing you know, I’m seeing my first new movie of 2015. And my god, it did not disappoint. What a creative and suspenseful sci-fi treat this turned out to be.

A secretive CEO of a search engine company has given one lucky person the opportunity to spend a week at his ‘in the middle of absolutely nowhere’ house to study his A.I. invention. This CEO, played by Oscar Isaac, is a genius, a drunk, and a douchebag it would seem. The ‘lucky’ winner, Domhnall Gleeson, is a young coder who lives near New York. Over the next number of days, he’s astonished at the A.I.’s intelligence and capacity to think, appalled at her captivity, and blown away by things I can’t say because it would completely ruin the movie. But for a film that for me, started slowly, it soon picked up speed and never slowed down until the credits began to roll.

This is a sci-fi story that’s original and feels completely fresh. It’s not that artificial intelligence has never been done before, but not in this type of way, not that I can remember. The aesthetics of the film are beautiful, and the way it’s shot is just really terrific. But what’s most outstanding to me is that a movie with three people (well, two people and one A.I.), it manages to bring about so many intense emotions and crazy, but planned, plot turns. It’s extremely well thought out, and will likely leave the door open for lots of discussion on A.I. as a whole.

At first I thought the acting was a bit, well, stiff, particularly on Gleeson’s party. But as things progressed, he improved somewhat. Isaac was very good, as was Vikander in her very unique role as a robot. In the end however, I’m just so impressed by how well this movie kept me wide-eyed and intrigued. It’s thrilling, suspenseful, funny at points, smart, and looks great. You can’t ask for much more than that…especially from something you’d never heard of until yesterday.

EX MACHINA: original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

Oscars 2015: Who Should Win

'Boyhood' should take home the top prize on Oscar night, and deservedly so. (IFC Films/aceshowbiz.com)

‘Boyhood’ should take home the top prize on Oscar night, and deservedly so. (IFC Films/aceshowbiz.com)

It’s that time of the year again, when all the best and brightest (that’s a stretch) in Hollywood come together to collectively pat themselves on the back and anger Fox News (with the exception of American Sniper that is!). Every year, I watch the Golden Globes and I watch the Oscars because I want to see who wins. And without fail, at the end of each and every telecast, I think to myself, “why did I just watch that?” I assume this year will be no different, but, that won’t stop me from telling you who I think should win. Away we go…

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Final List for 2014!

2014 at the movies has come and gone and my overall feeling is….”ehhhhhh.” Kind of lukewarm, to be honest, and maybe that’s why I didn’t get out to the theaters as much as I had in prior years. There were certainly some movies that were fantastic which I expected (Interstellar), summer surprises (Guardians of the Galaxy), and crushing disappointments (Hunger Games). But as a whole, 2014 won’t go down as a great year in film, for me. It came to an end with a few highlights, but certainly not enough to make up for the first 10 or so months. Nevertheless, here is my list for the top movies I saw in 2014:

1. interstellar poster Interstellar

2. TheImitationGame poster The Imitation Game

3. gone girl poster Gone Girl

4. 22 jump street poster 22 Jump Street

5. poster Edge of Tomorrow

6. guardians poster Guardians of the Galaxy

7. MPW-90199 The Grand Budapest Hotel

8. MPW-92327 (1) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

9. birdman poster Birdman 

10. neighbors poster Neighbors

——————————————–

and the rest…

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11. Foxcatcher

12. Calvary

13. The Skeleton Twins

14. Into the Woods

15. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I

Review: The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch is extraordinary as Alan Turing, in this truly exciting film. (The Weinstein Company/aceshowbiz.com)

Benedict Cumberbatch is extraordinary as Alan Turing, in this truly exciting film. (The Weinstein Company/aceshowbiz.com)

In a year of disappointing movies as a whole, The Imitation Game was a very welcome success, and a truly huge one at that. I’ve been so excited to see films with enormous Oscar buzz, that look so good (BirdmanFoxcatcher), yet fail to deliver as I hoped they would. But this one was much different: an incredible true story, told over three-time periods all at once, with tremendous acting and fantastic tension and humor.

The movie is about Alan Turing, a mathematician who helped build a machine for Britain that would crack the Nazi’s Enigma code. Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, was quite the odd soul, thinking only in black and white and in numbers, unable to truly relate to others. Throw in the fact that he was a closet homosexual, which was quite illegal at the time, and he truly stood out for a number of wrong reasons. But his personal quirks and sexual orientation aside, Turing turned out to be one of the biggest reasons the allies won World War II.

The story was told in three different times of Turing’s life: his childhood education at a boy’s school, during WWII, and in 1951 when he was being investigated. Director Morten Tyldum did a tremendous job of piecing the movie together intersecting all three pieces. I was able to learn so much about how Turing became the man he did, and what his life turned out to be, all while on the edge of my seat as he and his group attempted to break the Enigma code.

What was also quite impressive was the acting, and I’ll save Cumberbatch for last. Everyone did such a good job, and I knew that was the case because it never felt like I was truly watching a movie, or watching certain actors. Everything blended in so perfectly, it was as if it was a History Channel documentary (before History Channel became insane). But the lead man turned out to be the best – by a mile. There’s no doubt he’ll be at the very least nominated for an Oscar, and I don’t know if I’ve personally seen a stronger performance in 2014. The slight stutter, the awkward walking, the personality traits (inability to interact and form “true” dialogue or relationships)…it was all so well done.

I’ve said this before and this film made me realize it yet again: one of the best kind of experiences you can have at the movies is when there’s something unbelievably thrilling that has no sex, guns, CGI, or special effects. All you need is a brilliant story and dynamite acting, and The Imitation Game had plenty of that.

 

THE IMITATION GAME: original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar half_barnstar (out of 4)

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